Monday, August 22, 2011

Inspired by the Marchesa

Throughout the ages there have always been particular photographs that have become well known classics for one reason or another. They record a snapshot of posterity for the subject and any personage that is included.

Here we have a photo that transcends time and includes several icons of the 20th Century artistic, social and fashion worlds! Although of different times they all come together in perfect harmony.

The photo in question appeared in Life Magazine in September 1960 and pictures Norman Norell with his 1960 Fall "van Dongen Collection".

The collection was inspired by the portrait of the Marchesa Luisa Casati The Quai Venice by Kees van Dongen owned by Norell. Norell originally acquired the van Dongen portrait of Casati at auction for $125 US dollars from Parke-Bernet, New York, in the 1940s.

Norell was perhaps one of the greatest American designers and it is fitting that for inspiration he chose Casati to inspire a collection. Casati was one of the most talked about and painted woman of her age.

The portrait now belongs to the Milwaukee Art Museum.

The inspiration has kept on flowing until it reached Tom Ford and the photograph below shot by Stephen Meisel. Eerily similar to the portrait of Norell, in styling and mood, it seems that we are still being inspired by the Marchesa Casati.


  1. I've always been a big fan of Norell. Although he wasn't couture, his designs and quality are as good as Balenciaga. They have that sobriety and perfect balance.

    Did you see the video of the recent Chanel inspired Casati collection? And of course the incredible Casati portrait by Augustus John in Toronto's Art Gallery of Ontario.

  2. Wow! That's quite a similarity! I love the painting, thanks again for opening my eyes to something new every day.

  3. Don't you love it when things fall into place like that? A brilliant grouping of images!

  4. Wow I didn´t know this! Increible reinterpretation of a classic! I can´t wait to see all the results..and that´s not even the best part...but I can´t tell you I am forbidden to! haha

    The Black Label

  5. Very cool Had no idea about the connection and it's great seeing the photos at once.

  6. Hello David:
    Fascinating. We always find it interesting to discover what have been the influences in all aspects of design which often, as here, become repeated.

  7. Tom Ford looks very young in that picture.. So good looking..

    Kisses! ~Angel

  8. Fascinating photos. In my supreme stupidity I knew nothing about them.
    Now I am thinking with what 4 women of my own realm would I fancy to be portrait-ed like that. I have to think on the painting too :-)
    It is wonderful to follow your blog, pure gold.
    PS. Once a friend made this portrait of me - with the imaginary woman - but that was just a "classic" couple setting :-). It is featured in one of the first Posts in my blog:
    Well, with a good cup of coffee, this wondering with the mind is about the best way to start a day that I can think of. Thank you.
    Oh, the "pirate battle" thing in "my beach" is a once-in-a-year summer-fetes event, thankfully, but you are right, it is real life too.

  9. once again, you've made me feel like i've learnt something valuable today and not just oohhed and ahhhed. love that about your blog David!

    I would really love to see a book of then and now shots where photographers have used an iconic shot for inspiration.

    A bit like those books that hsow the same street or the same person, but 50 years apart. would be cool.

  10. Both versions are truly inspiring!


  11. i didn't know about the first photo until now, it's shockingly similar to the one of tom ford, just like you've said.

  12. Costin, I am finding that today's designers always find inspiration in the past in one form or another.

    Aura, many thanks for your visit

    Jules, what an interesting idea. I might as well start to see what I can come up with.

    PET, what a wonderful painting it is!

    Angel, yes he is! And so much style!

    Jane and Lance, what is old is always new again.

    Anya, yes seeing both together is so cool.

    Andy, cannot wait to hear!

    Mark, it is a bit like evolution isn't it?

    Catherine, thankyou!

    Norma, see!

    Mr SWF, I too have been a fan of Norell, so stay tuned for a future post. Along with the portrait the AGO also has the bronze head by Epstein! I visit them both at least once a month.

  13. Love her! Glad to see she's a recurring theme here.

  14. Thombeau, tust me she is coming back again soon!


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